Tips for Securing Top Tier Media

In the world of public relations it’s not uncommon to have a client ask (some might say demand) that you secure them top tier media coverage. It seems everyone wants to be in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, regardless of whether they have the right combination of story, prestige, originality, and timeliness it takes to give them a shot at being there. Securing top tier coverage isn’t hard, per se, but it does require patience and a keen understanding of what interests top tier media outlets.

I’ve definitely had luck securing this type of coverage throughout my career, though I’m still waiting for my dream hit – the TODAY show – to come true. Thinking back on the coverage I have secured, one thing stands out more than anything else – none of it was self-promotional. Whether it was a professor sharing research that quantified the value of being the darling of the NCAA tournament or an expert at a B2B software company providing commentary on a recent major news event – they always presented information or commentary on a topic without promoting a product or service.  Periodically, top tier outlets will run company profiles, but those are extremely rare and usually based as much on the notoriety of the CEO as on the company’s story alone.

If you are interested in top tier media coverage, below are some tips and things to keep in mind when traveling down this path.

Consider the audience

Our clients are traditionally interested in specific industry or vertical trade publications. The audience for these publications is very specific and generally highly targeted. For instance, InformationWeek focuses on general business IT professionals, whereas GCN is specific to government technology managers responsible for the specification, evaluation, and selection of technology solutions.  

Yes, someone who reads CIO Dive is very likely also reading The Wall Street Journal, but that doesn’t mean they will accept the same kind of content. Pitches that are written for a trade outlet rarely, if ever, are appropriate for a top tier publication. People who are reading trade pubs are looking for very specific information and solutions and are interested in hearing from others who have had their same experiences – whether it’s implementing DevOps, moving to the cloud, or picking a data analytics solution. Top tier publications, on the other hand, are read by everyone and anyone – regardless of profession – and often have a serious business focus.  

If you want to be in a top tier publication you need a hook that is going to resonate with publications that cater to readers beyond technologists.

Elevate your message

With the audience in mind, it’s time to elevate your message beyond your elevator pitch and make it of interest to a larger audience. That pitch on Common Criteria certification that worked so well for GCN or that abstract about the latest trends in IT security that netted you a byline with The New Stack isn’t going to cut it for top tier media.  

Top tier news outlets don’t exist to profile your company and give you a plug for having amazing technology (unless maybe you are Tesla). Their reporting largely falls into two categories. 1. Breaking news/new analysis and 2. Covering newsworthy trends.

The Equifax breach, Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities, Amazon picking a location for its second headquarters, Apple unveiling another new iPhone (because everything Apple does it media gold). These are all examples of breaking news or news analysis. Many people will read the examples above of Amazon picking a second headquarters location or Apple announcing another new iPhone and will instantly think that their company is also worthy of the same coverage. Let me stop you there. You’re probably not. First, Amazon and Apple are household names. Second, Amazon’s second headquarters is expected to bring with it 50,000 high-paying jobs and $5 billion in investment. Third, Apple sold 201 million iPhones in 2016 and sold one billion iPhone worldwide between 2007-2016. It’s hard for most B2B and B2G technology companies to compete with those numbers.  

Newsworthy trends include things like the mass adoption of containers or cloud technology by the Fortune 500 as a way of creating efficiencies and cost savings, the impact of federal tax reform, and innovative ways to handle a rise in cyber warfare. Not only are these sorts of articles of interest to the CIO of a corporation but they are also of interest to the larger audience these publications cater to – Wall Street, CEOs, CFOs, and other financially or technologically savvy business people. Anything that reads as too self-serving or promotional will immediately be tossed aside.

Be patient – and persistent

As I’ve already mentioned, securing top tier media coverage isn’t difficult, per se, but you need to be patient and persistent. While that may seem like a competing directive the simple fact is that unless something is breaking news then there is no rush for the reporter to cover it this very moment. It’s not unusual for a story idea to take months to come together. We’ve worked with reporters before on trend articles that have taken six months or more to see the light of day.

Part of the reason for this is that the story, while interesting, is not likely breaking news. In fact, it’s probably a rather evergreen idea that can be published and received just as well whether it’s covered in January or September.

The other factor in the delay in publishing these articles is that they are often pitched featuring one company – your company – and in order to make the story idea palatable to an editor, the reporter needs to show that it’s part of a trend. This often entails identifying other companies or experts with a similar message that can add more credibility to the story.  

In these situations, patience is truly a virtue but you shouldn’t back off completely. Set reminders and follow up every so often. Better yet, offer to point the reporter in the direction of other companies that can corroborate what you are trying to tell them.  

However, if you do have breaking news – or a strong viewpoint that should be shared regarding breaking news – speed is your friend. In these sorts of situations reporters are bombarded with experts offering their opinions or analysis and you want to be one of the first to reach them. The key here is to offer unbiased analysis or opinion that is also non-promotional. The last thing a reporter wants to do when writing about the latest cyberattack is plug your company’s cybersecurity software and have you tell the world how you could have stopped the whole situation from arising. While it may be true, reporters are looking for expert commentary on what happened, how it happened and — for these mainstream pubs — what it means for their audience. A good rule of thumb here is to really reflect on are you a subject matter expert or are you truly a thought leader? Reporters are interested in both – but don’t play yourself off as one when you’re really the other.  

A big part of securing top tier media coverage is having something to say that they will be interested in. This can require some tough self-reflection and really analyzing if what you have to say is truly worthy of top tier media coverage.  

Interested in some more tips to help make sense of all these thoughts? Stay tuned for next month when I’ll flesh out some of these ideas and provide some tips on how to get started working with top tier media and what kind of news or story ideas will work in your favor.